Dominic Benhura is critically acclaimed as one of the premier stone sculptors in the world and has exhibited for over three decades throughout Africa, America, Asia and Europe. Born in 1968 in the small Zimbabwean village of Murewa, Dominic has developed a distinctive sculpting style dedicated to children, family and nature. By focusing on form and texture rather than facial features, Dominic’s work appeals to a global audience. His famed “Leap Frog” series is viewed by millions annually as it stands in the permanent collection of the world’s busiest airport: Hartsfield International in Atlanta. His personal presentation of “Swing Me Mama” to Nelson Mandela marked a career highlight. This work stand in the permanent collection of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
Dominic is a national treasure in Zimbabwe and his Dominic Studios is home to a small, close-knit group of some of the finest sculptors on the continent. Younger and lesser known sculptors at Dominic Studios benefit from the constant stream of journalists, collectors and visiting international artists. Many younger artists have launched successful international careers through their apprenticeships and experiences at Dominic Studios. Throughout his early life Dominic always had a desire to build an arts center to train young artists. “For five years I was a resident artist at Chapungu Sculpture Park. We used to work as a group and it occurred to me that I’d like to help other artists in the future,” says Dominic. “What is important for me, and I think I’m beginning to achieve it,” he says, “is to bring sculptors face to face, from rural and urban areas. That is the only way to develop ourselves. I have always been closer to something, I don’t know, more interior. I like to take things with a certain seriousness. This studio business is a serious project.”
Most importantly for Dominic, his relentless work ethic and international exhibition schedule have enabled him to offer his own five children unprecedented educational and related career opportunities. All five hold degrees from universities in Europe and South Africa and are busy pursing successful careers in the fields of law, medicine and music.
In recent years, Dominic has headlined several landmark sculpture exhibitions at some of the worlds most beautiful botanical gardens including the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Sculpture in the Park in Loveland Colorado, and the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati Ohio. Dominic is particularly adept in working large scale outdoor sculptures often weighing tons and standing several feet high. And because children and nature still inspire the majority of his work, Dominic is able to appeal to a global audience. Says Dominic: “Most of my sculptures are experiments in form, contrast and texture. For my themes, I’m inspired by everything around me. Obviously there are pieces which have greater emotional significance to me than others. Take the concept of twins, this is a study of my family, my children who mean infinitely more to me than anything. Objectively, the form of twins is just as pleasing to me than that of a cactus, but the difference in emotional content is huge. My sculpture begins from forms that inspire me. There are lots of stories in my culture about the spirit world – especially in Shona sculpture this subject has become overused in my opinion. I have a deep respect for the work of the first generation Zimbabwean sculptors but I do not feel limited in any way by my cultural heritage. It is not that I am less concerned about the past, it is just that you can not expect somebody born 30 years after me to produce work like mine; this is because we experience different areas of life. I think it’s important to talk about what you really know. I choose to portray my world, the essence of things that surround me. Sometimes I might work in the same vein but I always feel the need to propel myself forward. I get very excited when creating a new piece. I even go outside during the night to look at it – you would not do that with a piece you’ve made many times before. What inspires me is my love for nature and humanity, plus the curiosity to see what comes out of a new idea.”
His charitable work is legendary and he’s donated pieces throughout the world to select children’s hospitals, clinics and global peace initiatives. Within in Zimbabwe, Dominic has joined forces with other artists, such as the late musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi, to help build, equip and staff several local schools and clinics.
At ZUVA gallery, we are so proud to have partnered with Dominic for the past 25 years and we look forward to continuing our working relationship and friendship for decades to come.